Hate crimes are age old – certainly since Cain’s jealously motivated murder of his brother, Abel; maybe earlier than that. Throughout history, there has been evil committed by man against others, in war and in peace. Killing of enemies and innocents is a sad hallmark of mankind. The motivations are many, but jealousy, greed and fear are key ones. The Jews have probably experienced the most pervasive enmity, perhaps because they span the longest period of history among the monotheists, perhaps because many resent their birthright as the first to understand and choose God (I like what Golda Meir said about not being the chosen people but being the first to choose God), perhaps because they are an identifiable community amongst us that is guilty of great achievements disproportionate to their numbers. Anyway, I don’t get the animosity toward them.
Muslims in the West are a new target for hate. Again, they are an identifiable community amongst us, likewise guilty of great achievement and promise, and somewhat recently growing in significant numbers in western populations. An attack by a lone gunman against worshipping Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand in March, that killed 50 innocents, is a reminder of how increasingly heinous this prejudice has become (the Christchurch gunman even carried reference on one of his guns to a Quebec City mosque shooting in January 2017, that killed six worshippers). But in Sri Lanka, Christians and westerners were targets of alleged Muslim extremists who murdered 310 and wounded over 500 on Easter Sunday.
There are very bad people amongst us. When we read about extremists espousing or showing hate against the west or our communities, it fuels our fear and, subsequently for some, hate in return. Angry, scared, perhaps disenfranchised people, turning their misguided emotion toward some perverse objective. In their minds, they are not evil but see these different communities, perhaps as new immigrants to their country, as evil and a threat to their livelihood and to their sense of fairness. There are even so-called Christian churches and clergy, mostly in the U.S. south it seems, but here too, that abide and promote this prejudice and hatred. This too escapes me, that someone can believe God abides prejudice, hate and murder.
Resentment of other communities, of immigrants, is common. It’s fodder for jokes, bad jokes. And it’s terribly ironic. Western countries are essentially immigrant-driven. In Canada and the U.S., in the last, relatively historically modern 500 years, it’s what made us. Just ask any history or sociology professor, or Indigenous person. In Britain, where I think ethnic communities integrate reasonably well, the 2016 Brexit vote was at least a bit motivated by anti-immigration. The U.S. under Donald Trump has become more isolationist and xenophobic. We seem to be more welcoming in Canada but we show our prejudices too, perhaps mostly against the newest group of immigrants. Ironic. Mankind has always migrated, since we walked upright, to more open lands of opportunity. You’d think we’d be more welcoming and neighbourly by now